Gus had fun with his camera under a Greenlee County Sky 8-1-10
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
There is an old story I like to tell myself whenever we have to move again. I told it to myself when we left Utah to move down here. Now I remind myself of it once again. I do not remember where I first heard it but it goes like this.
A man lived in the jungle and wanted to catch a monkey for a pet. So, he put a peanut in the bottom of a narrow necked bottle and tied it to a stake. When the troop of monkeys came by in the afternoon one of the younger monkeys saw the bottle gleaming in the sunlight with the peanut in its depths. The monkey ambled over to the strange object, examined it, and reached inside the bottle. Its leathery hand clasped the peanut tightly excited about his treasure. But, as the monkey tried to extract the peanut form the bottle he could not do it. With its hand clutching the peanut tightly its fist was too large to remove from the bottle. Yet, if the monkey let go, it would not have its treasure. So, the monkey held on and screamed in frustration. The man heard the commotion and came running with a net and captured the monkey. For the rest of its days the monkey lived in confinement because he would not let go.
For me, I see this as a parable for my life. I cannot have the next thing if I do not let go of what I already have. I will be held captive by what is instead of gaining my freedom to reach for what could be. Mentally I had been going through this exercise for days on end interspersed with tears and sweet longing. I looked around my yard at all the plants I planted. I sat in my hot tub and looked at my mesquite tree. It barely reached above the top of the 6 foot wall when we moved here 3 ½ years ago, now it provides towering shade to the yard and shelter for the birds. I can’t help but think of it as “MY” mesquite tree and I wonder if the new owners of my house will love it and cherish it like I do. From a brief moment I feel selfish. I do not want to share my mesquite tree with anyone else! But of course, it does belong here and I must let it go.
So it is Thursday, August 5 that I wake in the morning with an intense feeling of sadness. I wander about the house and yard doing my morning chores of watering and feeding birds and pets. I wander aimlessly from room to room looking at each room, each vista with sadness. I ask myself, why do I feel this way? I am ready to go. I am ready for the next adventure, the next phase of my life. I do feel that this is the right thing to do, so why am I feeling so sad? Then it hits me. I want to go with Gus.
Our original plan was for Gus to leave first while I stay behind to deal with the house. Gus leaves this Saturday morning and I am staying for another 10 days to 2 weeks to get the house ready to show and to transition my son and his family in to live here until the house sells, IF it sells. The housing market here has suffered a severe blow and if we can sell our house at all it will be far below what we paid for it. It has become the most stressful part of this move. Anyway, I planned on flying back east towards the end of August so I could see my brother before he heads back to Florida for the winter and to help Gus search for our new home on the east coast. Then, I would fly back here at the beginning of October and stay until the movers come to pack up our stuff. Then Gus and I would drive across country with our pets and our other car and I would leave for good.
At first I liked this idea and I thought about all the birding I could do and all the adventures I could have while Gus was gone and I was free to do as I pleased. But this morning it finally occurred to me that I just want to go with him. We have always made these transitions together. We have had so many adventures with all the moves we have made. I no longer want to stay here and wait. I want to go now! So, I formulate new plan and spring it on Gus when he calls. What if, I say, instead of waiting for me to move out there in November I can get one of our sons to drive with me across the country with our car and out pets and I came now and stay there now and we both just fly back here when it’s time to pack up the house? Gus says, wow! I like that idea. And so we have a new plan.
The rest of the day I while I am cleaning house and doing laundry I am also planning. I pose the idea to two of my three sons to see which one might be able to go on this adventure with me. I am full of excitement now and as I look out the windows at the birds peacefully feeding I realize that I am finally ready to take down my bird feeders and say good-bye to the birds of Sycamore Canyon.
Update 8-23-10: I had another post to publish before this one with lots of bird photos and I wanted to add bird photos to this post but I keep getting a 403 error message saying “forbidden.” I think this means I have exceeded my limit to photos on Picasa Web Albums. I went to their site this morning but there is so much data to read through that I do not have time to figure all of this out right now. I am getting ready to drive across the country with my vehicle and my pets this week. My son, Chris, is flying in from Maine to make the drive with me. My son, G and his wife and my grandson Xavier are moving into our house to rent it until it sells. If it sells. We have not had one person come to look at the house yet. To add to the stress, my youngest son, Alex, left for the war in Afghanistan last week. I need to get an oil change done on the car today. So, I am posting this as my last post unless and until I can figure things out.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Now, here is one of the hazards of my personality. As we blow past Wilcox and head north on route 191 I am starting to see so many birds along the roadway. I am so tempted to stop and when I discover that there are two state parks just south of Safford I want Gus to pull into them so we can count birds. But here is where he saves the day for he insists that we press on to Greenlee County first and then if we have time we can stop on our way back, so, on we go.
Route 191 takes a sharp turn east as we enter the town of Safford before turning north once again to Greenlee County. There are not a lot of towns on the map and this is the only road in this direction. Rolling hills covered in brush give way to distant mountains. I can still see ocotillo and prickly pear cactus scattered among the mountain grasses. The hills are getting steeper and closer together. We come to a junction of three highways. On eBird it is called Three Way. I see a rest area with signs for the Clifton Ranger Station. This looks like a promising place to count birds. As Gus turns the car around to head back to the spot I see my first birds in Greenlee County, a pair of mourning doves perched in a low tree.
In the distance I see turkey vultures, then a few more mourning doves fly by. That’s it. These are all the birds I see. We are here for half an hour, but this is all I see. As I am walking to the car finally a lone barn swallow flies by. I now have 4 species of birds counted in Greenlee County.
We could have turned back at this point but we press on. I want to count more birds and we both want to see what lies ahead. We follow route 191 north as it winds its way upwards. The road is getting ever steeper, the hills are closing in. We cross deep canyons on high bridges with names like Cougar Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon. I gaze far below me as we cross the low edged bridges. Suddenly we are climbing a steep hill and as we reach its crest and start down the small “town” of Clifton is revealed in the crevice of the earth.
Low gray houses like blocks sit on perched on the edges of steps or terraces carved into the mountainside. I realize that we are entering a mining town and these must be the company houses. Each one sits check to jowl with the other and under the currently cloudy skies all looks bleak and gloomy. How does anyone live like this? This place is so remote. It is hours from anywhere and crammed in this narrow canyon. Each house looks exactly like the other. There is no variety, no creativity. All is about function and making money.
The road levels out at the bottom of the town where the San Francisco River flows through the town. I do not know if it flows all the time but today it is brimming its banks. Railroad tracks cut though the town running parallel with the main street.
We find a little park tucked into the cleft of the mountain and pull in to park. The river flows by along the street and an iron railroad bridge crosses the river. Once again Gus is out taking photos while I count birds.
The river’s edge is lined thickly with willows and brush. I can hear a few birds but they are difficult to see in all the greenery. A white-winged dove flies into a branch overhead but takes off when it spots me. I think I can hear some kind of flycatcher but I do not see it and I am unsure of its call. I think I hear the “cheer, cheer, cheer” of a cardinal but I want to see it first to count it and it never appears. The sky overhead has grown black with thick clouds, a light shower is starting to fall.
Suddenly the light shower turns into a downpour and I bolt for the car! Gus has no protection for his camera and I know he will not be able to get back here fast enough.
I can only hope he is seeking shelter near one of the abandoned buildings as I jump in and start the engine and head across the bridge as fast as I can. I see him hunched and walking swiftly towards an old building as I round the bend and beep my horn at him. I pull into the gravel parking lot nearby and he jumps into the car. He grabs some napkins to dry off his camera and then he holds it in front of the blowers.
From here we continue upwards to the town of Morenci. The sun has emerged once again as we park the car in this small town. This town must be older and newer. Homes are carved in to the cliffs. They are of varying styles and in various locations. We find a grocery store, a medical clinic, schools, gas stations and shopping centers. Little parks are tucked in everywhere and we even find a town pool. It feels a bit different here than in Clifton but looming over everything is the ever present copper mine. There are not a lot of birds here, but I find another black-throated sparrow. It seems they are everywhere along with mourning doves, white-winged doves and Eurasian collared doves. These species along with turkey vultures and barn swallows are all the species I find in Greenlee country except for a lone Cassin’s Kingbird. That is it. Oh, and a few house sparrows here at this corner where we have stopped.
Once again we get back in the car and head upwards. Now the road runs straight through the heart of the mine. It climbs numerous steep switchbacks through terraces of ochre, red, green and silver streaked earth. The colors of the rocks are amazing, but all is barren desolation around me. I see a turkey vulture searching the steep cliff sides and wonder what he could possible find to eat. This is certainly a place to die but you have to be able to live here first! We reach the crest of the mountain and we are both stuck by a stark contrast. On one side of the road the huge Coppermine drops into a multi- colored and multi-layered pit where trucks larger than a house haul chunks of rock away to be processed and dumped.
The mine is on the right side of us as we are heading north, but on our left is a spot with unspoiled landscape, rolling hills, mountain peaks, and rocky crags. It all tumbles away into a gorgeous vista.
I cannot help but think to myself, who saw all this beauty and said, let’s dig this up! I know I know, I am not a business man or a miner but really, is this worth it? How long will it take for this land to heal when and if they ever stop extracting these minerals? As if to emphasize the difference in our opinions and what we value we drove just a mile or two farther up the road where a sign is posted for a “Scenic view”.
After leaving the Scenic View we drive a few miles more to the edge of the mine. It is now almost 3 p.m. and we realize we have to turn back. Out of curiosity I reset the car’s trip meter to see how many miles of road are within the boundaries of the mine. It takes us 20 minutes to cover the 12 miles of road from border to border. I have no idea just how wide this mine is, but it sure does take up a big chunk of the landscape.
Birds Seen In Greenlee County 8-1-10
- Turkey Vulture
- Eurasian Collared-dove
- Mourning Dove
- White-winged dove
- Cassin’s Kingbird
- Barn Swallow
- Black-throated sparrow
- House sparrow
Sunday, August 15, 2010
It is Gus’ last weekend here with me. We have been taking care of last minute details for the past two days. The company Gus works for has every other Friday off so we spent Friday and Saturday doing errands. We bought him some new clothes, had his truck repaired, cleaned out his closet, got rid of old clothes and shoes. By Saturday night we were beat.
We both woke up early this Sunday morning around 6 a.m. It is a cool gray morning, cool enough to jump in the hot tub, so we get into our suits and climb in to the steaming water and let the bubbles roar! The hot tub is only a few steps out our bedroom door. We just bought it this year a couple of months ago. We were finally settling down and investing in our lives here. Two weeks after we bought it the lay-offs started. Now here we are enjoying every moment in it that we can. Having the hot tub has really made living here feel like we are on a permanent vacation.
We sit in the bubbling water and watch the birds watch us. They fly to the feeders to feed and land in the nearby trees that we planted. The hummingbirds fly over our heads to the feeders on the windows. We laugh at their antics as they battle each other for food. Two Costa’s hummingbirds face off in a beak to beak battle as they ascend in a frantic spiral which ends with one flying off and the other in hot pursuit. I love my life here! In the sky above the wash the purple martins fly and twitter joyously. I think they sound like one of the happiest birds around. It seems to me they revel in the feeling of the wind beneath their wings!
As we sit here in the hot tub watching birds I start to think of the few chores we still have left to do. Gus was going to hang a mirror for me and fix a leaky faucet. But this is our last free day together and I start to formulate a plan. I pose the idea to Gus. What if instead of fixing the sink and cleaning out the rest of your closet we just take off for the day? We can drive to Graham and Greenlee counties to see what we can see and go count birds. He thinks about it for about five seconds and then agrees. We both think it will be good to get away from all the moving stress, so we quickly shower, eat breakfast, pack up the car and head east on I-10.
Graham and Greenlee counties are two of the least birded counties in all of Arizona. In fact, only 5 people have submitted bird counts from Greenlee County. I counted birds one time in Graham County last year when we drove up there late one afternoon in the autumn just so I could say I had been there. I only counted birds in the town and at a couple of spots along the roadside. We didn’t have much time and darkness was falling as we drove out of town for the 2 hour ride home. On that visit I counted 8 species of birds. Now I am hoping to add to that total, plus add another whole county onto my list. I have never been to Greenlee County so I have no idea what to expect.
Greenlee County is on the eastern border of Arizona running vertically along the border with New Mexico. It is not an easy county to access from where I live. There are few roads into it and when I googled directions to get to a town called Alpine it actually suggested a route through Lordsburg, New Mexico and up through the Gila Mountains. It said it would take 4 hours! Well, we don’t have time for that today, but we can get into the southernmost tip of Greenlee county by traveling through Safford and so we head east through Cochise County.
Our first stop is at Texas Canyon, a rocky rest area along I-10. This is one of those places we have passed by every time we head east and we always say, “We need to stop there someday!” Well, today is the day. Who knows when another “someday” will come? We pull into the rest area and park.
Huge boulders are strewn around the landscape. They are piled into mountains on both sides of the road. They tower above us in the picnic area and we see other tourists climbing about and taking pictures.
I can hear a few birds as we open the car doors but to my disappointment I see that most of the rocks are fenced off. You can look but don’t touch. I gaze across the boulder strewn field through a tall chain link fence. It makes it difficult to take photographs but there are a few spots where one can aim over the fence and get a decent shot. Gus and I both have our cameras so we are both taking pictures, though I am more interested in birds. I hear some chatter from beyond the fence and spot a scrub jay in the brush.
Overhead a few barn swallows swoop and a few land on the roof antenna of the caretaker’s house. Along the parking lot I find some house sparrows and one western kingbird. Over the open desert turkey vultures ride thermals on great dark wings.
As I walk along the fence line I find a sign posted warning that this area contains poisonous snakes and insects. I am suddenly made conscious of my feet clad only in sandals, poor protection from this type of hazard. I now watch wear I place each step and head back to the car.
It was fun to stop here and see what I could see, but this is only Cochise County and Gus and I are both ready to continue our trek east to my real goal of counting birds in Graham and Greenlee counties, but I am glad that we finally stopped to see Texas Canyon! (See links and info below)
Location: Texas Canyon Rest Area
Observation date: 8/1/10
Notes: Stopped here to look a rocks and count birds on our way to Graham and Greenlee counties.
Number of species: 9
Turkey Vulture 3
Gila Woodpecker 1
Western Kingbird 1
Western Scrub-Jay (Woodhouse's) 1
Barn Swallow 5
Northern Mockingbird 1
Canyon Towhee 1
House Finch 3
House Sparrow 4
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
Update: after Reading Gaelyn’s comment I went out and did some research and discovered that most of Texas Canyon is owned by either the Amerind Foundation or the Triangle T Guest Ranch. The Triangle T also has RV spaces for rent. You can find information about Texas Canyon by clicking on these links: